Review of “The Falls”: an intimate COVID-19 drama in Taiwan

Taiwanese author Chung Mong-hong, one of the most underrated storytellers of our time, has amassed a humble following with his 2020 Oscar-nominated masterpiece ‘A Sun’, a searing family saga three hours. With the pandemic parent-child drama “The Falls,” the prolific director steps away from the novelistic scope of his predecessor to anatomize the evolution of a separate bond once again.

An evocative tonal chameleon of a shape-shifting movie until its very last seconds, “The Falls” begins with an unsettling series of confrontations between Pin-Wen (Alyssa Chia) and her teenage daughter Xiao Jing (Gingle Wang) at the start. days of the COVID-19 crisis. Initially, the fear is that the girl has contracted the disease, but it is only the initial crack that triggers the demolition of their seemingly comfortable lifestyle.

Like the virus, the film quickly turns into a role reversal, where Xiao Jing deals with her mother’s mental health (disturbed by a premonition) and finances while learning about her father’s new life far away. of them. Thrown into adulthood without a safety net, she begins to discern her parents for who they are: flawed individuals pretending to be invincible.

Illustrating the true uniqueness of the vision, Chung also acts as his own cinematographer, which he has done for his films before, albeit previously under a pseudonym. Blue light blankets the family’s apartment, vindicated by an oppressive tarp that covers the entire building, adding an air of otherworldly steel. The moody interiors contrast with the filmmaker’s tender exploitation of sunlight elsewhere, more in tune with Liming Lu’s placidly picturesque score which, as if taken from a Studio Ghibli film, conveys a soothing hope for this which is to come.

In the restructuring of the characters’ worldviews, with Pin-Wen quitting his corporate career for a job as a supermarket clerk, what seems like an abrupt demotion brings the two together. A coming-of-age story and a tale of a person’s second wind blossoming in parallel, Chia superbly interprets Pin-Wen’s passage from chaos to equilibrium, just as Wang interprets Xiao’s first brushstrokes. Jing with maturity, first with anger, then with pride.

For all the heartache the leads suffer in Chung’s most recent work, the result provides a vital reminder to look across the room and see each other. By the nature of streaming algorithms and content dumps, “The Falls” might fly criminally under the radar, but will deeply surprise those who cross paths with its bizarre curiosities.

‘The falls’

In Mandarin with English subtitles

Unclassified

Operating time: 2 hours, 9 minutes

Playing: Available January 29 on Netflix

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